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From anxiously disorganized to kinda, sorta, actually... clean! How I've been changing my...

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

I have posted on here before about how I was always the hopelessly disorganized kid who was constantly stressed out and never knew where anything was.  I mean, just downright gross at times.  There's still some of that in me, but I've been changing my perspective on myself, letting go of the labels.  I read somewhere that it would help me to think of organization as a skill I can practice and learn, and become better at without having to do it perfectly.  As I learn more, I think of more ways I can help myself function better in life, at work, and as a parent.  I've been working on spatial organization and time management lately.  And I've been learning to stop trying to cram so much in - both stuff and tasks.


Recently, I decided that if I wanted a radical change in our family's environment, I was the one holding us back. So I'd have to make a radical change in myself.


So for the past four months, I've been working on it. Cleaning stuff out, donating, trashing. Saying good bye to stuff I didn't really use. Organizing papers I was afraid to look at. Getting into a laundry routine. Learning to pick up after myself. DP began putting his dirty clothes in the basket instead of leaving them on the floor where ever he took them off. Taking his dishes to the sink. He hung up his instruments and organized his cables. He threw out clothes that didn't fit him and we agreed to get him some stuff that would. We both found places for everything. I began doing dishes right away instead of letting them build up. I got rid of lots of dishes so I didn't have to wash so many. He hung up curtain rods so I could hang up curtains. I should have subtitled this, "A love story." We've been inspiring each other to keep stuff neat, building new habits, and decreasing our tolerance for mess.


In the process of all this, I also got rid of the idea that picking stuff up or putting stuff away was a waste of my time because I was just going to mess it up again or get it out again. I replaced it with a new idea: that picking up after myself shows respect for myself, my environment, and my family. Putting away my tools and materials shows respect for my work and my craft. Being mindful and careful in everything I do elevates even my everyday work to art. I started to accept that I'm not going to be able to do every cool thing I want to do, and that I do need to just pick a few things and focus, and I will be happier finishing something, that doing multiple things and never finishing them.


Well, a few nights ago, I tackled the piles on the kitchen table and around my workspace. And they're gone. I have a load of stuff waiting to go to goodwill/a clothing swap this week. And then they're gone. All the piles are gone.


Now that everything has a place, picking up is so easy for anyone to do.  We can decorate a little - hang up some art, get a houseplant.


I think we could trim down just a tiny little more - I think that Crayfish's idea that storage should only be 70% full for ideal usability and I think that's true for us.


But I just wanted to jump for joy today when I woke up and walked out into our living room and saw that it was "a mess" because DD had pulled some fabric out of a basket and put it on the floor. That was our mess! It was cleaner than our clean two months ago, where everything was swept and picked up and there were still piles and piles of fabric, papers, books, and god knows what.


I know where all my materials are when I want to create something. I don't hang on to every little thing because I "might be able to use it" - I let a lot of that go so that it could find someone else who would use it, instead of languishing in a box in my house because I thought it had potential.


So now comes the hard part, or maybe it'll be the easy part: maintaining all our new habits and refraining from bringing more stuff into the house.

post #2 of 19

Thank you an inspirational post. 

post #3 of 19

WOW! That's really inspirational. Thank you so much for sharing. It gives me hope.  I posted what my house actually looks like in some other threads and I'm curious if you really approached what we look like. We have a snow day today and I'm really losing it with my 7 yo budding hoarder. She won't throw away anything  - including tags, garbage, etc. We are drowning here. 

post #4 of 19

That's awesome! Pretty much exactly the change that needs to happen at my house.

post #5 of 19

wow, good for you!


i'm definitely less stressed when things are in their place.  problem is, things get out of place so quickly.


you mention so many great ideas, some of which i've been practicing as of late.  the combination of the new year and baby #2 coming in may has inspired me to get rid of all the stuff we don't need and get organized.


one thing you mention that i really need to do is to decorate more.  i've always been the type that never planned on staying anywhere permanently so would never paint, hang things on the walls, get nice window fixtures, etc.  we've been in our current house for two years (and just signed another two-year lease) and would love to make this home more homey.  definitely something i need to work on.


thanks for this post.  truly inspirational.

post #6 of 19

Good for you!

post #7 of 19
Wow. Awesome. tiphat.gif
post #8 of 19

Awesome!!!!  Hoping some of this rubs off onto me :)

post #9 of 19

Wow...good for you!


I am in a similar boat, in the sense that a year ago I would have felt it's all too hard.


I still have a long way to go, but now at least I feel that it is achievable and not impossible!


I realised recently how far I have come when my MIL drops in unexpectedly (which she does a lot irked.gif ) and instead of cringing I feel OK about how things look.

post #10 of 19

Great thread!



I read somewhere that it would help me to think of organization as a skill I can practice and learn, and become better at without having to do it perfectly.


So true, and this is something I'm very slowly learning. 

post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks guys!   Clutterwarrior, that's one of the best feelings - that if someone drops in, it's no big deal.


I agree, samstress,  I htink trying to make a place homey goes a long way.  We are the same way - moving alot, and never wanting to set up home.  But it's time to.  I think some house plants will look really nice.


EileenC, I saw the pictures of your house.  I actually thought it looked pretty nice, if full, if that gives you any idea of the standards I am working with.  (To compare, I recently visited my dad and in his office he had a GIANT pile of Mountain Dew cans... like waist high.) Our place had less stuff by virtue of being smaller, but had the same feeling of "fullness" because of all of the piles of stuff sitting out everywhere.  So I'd say that the proportion of stuff to space was the same if not worse in our place.  Now that we have cleared out the clutter, it's very evident that our place is very utilitarian and and almost completely undecorated.  Which I hope to change. 


My DP also had a lot of clutter before we moved, but when he saw me throwing my stuff out, he joined in.  It's like once he realized that I was serious about changing myself and taking responsibility for my mess, he was willing to deal with his.  At one point, he had about fifty worn out tshirts that I was constantly washing because they were always in a pile on the floor.  I packed up 40 of them and put them in a box out of the way so I wouldn't have to wash them.  I told him what I was doing, and that I would not ask him to get rid of them because he did not want to throw them away.  Well, last week after I did my last big clean, I asked him what he wanted me to do with them, and he was like, "Those don't fit me.  Let's just get rid of them."

Edited by cyclamen - 1/12/11 at 4:01pm
post #12 of 19

Thank you SO much for posting. We do have a good-sized house and it's full. And DH and I are on the older side of things. I only posted a few rooms, but they are typical. Basement is FULL-UP! It's good to know you were kind of working on the same relative scale. I decided that I had plenty of my OWN junk to deal with and I wouldn't worry about DH until I had "cleaned my own house" so to speak. I am hoping he comes along though. He's actually better at organizing them me and does a lot around the house. But he's way more the keeper and 10 years older so he just has a lot more stuff. And DD is totally taking after him!

post #13 of 19
Thread Starter 

This has been a topic on my mind lately, and I thought I'd give another update. 


(My previous post is here: http://www.mothering.com/community/t/1271258/learning-to-be-clean-teaching-kids-to-be-clean-when-you-are-messy)


We are still maintaining a "pretty good" standard of cleanliness and order.  The amount of our stuff in the house does ebb and flow.  Right now we seem to be in an especially "full of stuff" period... partly because I've been decorating.  I think it will be time to do another round of decluttering soon, now that things are coming together.  I have all sorts of new storage furniture in my house!  It's crazy.


I use my kitchen timer a lot to help me manage doing large tasks.  For dishes, I have multiple dish tubs so that I can split up or defer a large load when I don't want to do it right away.


I remember that I want to see my home as a place of comfort and refuge and that it does not need to be perfectly organized or decluttered.  On the other hand, I think I know what kind of organizational strategies I have to implement in   order to reduce some of my workload.  Julie Morgenstern's book, Organizing from the Inside Out was a tremendous help to me in learning how to see what would work for me.


Finally, I did some work in therapy and came to the realization that a great deal of my issues around cleanliness and chores did in fact stem from my childhood experiences of being severely physically punished and criticized for things like not having done the dishes "well enough".  I always thought that I had deserved those punishments; now I see them as the irrational result of my mother's rage.  I also know that no one is making me clean my house.  I choose to clean it, and if I'm too tired to, I don't, or I ask for help.  It doesn't make me lazy, it means that I have a good sense of my priorities.  I also learned that I have ADD (inattentive) and that I needed help strengthening my executive function skills.  So I have been working on all those things.  When I realized that, I think I was able to relax a little and not listen to the judge in my head so much, because though I know she means well and is trying to help/protect me, she isn't helpful.  I don't live with a person who criticizes or punishes me anymore, thank goodness.


I also have come to see the connection between my environment and my emotions.  Visual disorder makes me feel unsettled, so I have made it a priority to decorate in a way that soothes me and the other members in my family.  I never believed before that it was worth it for me to do this.  I thought it was selfish and frivolous.  Now I see that it is a matter of quality of life, and worthy of the time and expenditure.  Instead of worrying so much about what colors I liked, or what "scheme" of decorating suited my personality that I never began, or that I had an assemblage of trash picked items which conflicted with each other, I decided that my goal was to have a house that was cozy and comfortable. 


This is what I did for my living room in the last few months.


We got a free couch in good condition that in the past I would have thought was "not my style."  I decided that it was in fact going to be my style.  It's a kind of overstuffed brown thing with nailhead trim.  Kind of countryish, so I decided that would be my theme.  My walls are painted that rental tan in the living room and white everywhere else.  So I found a pair of inexpensive red curtains from Target (total cost $32) that looked nice with the couch.  Then I went to the clearance bin and bought fabric remnants (also stuff I would once have considered "not my style" but which I now consider lovely because - it matches!) which coordinated with the curtains, plus some red ticking, plus some onasberg and some trim.  This ran me about $70, and in the past I would have balked at that cost.  I don't really think that was cheap, but it was affordable for us, although it meant that we ended up buying no groceries and living off farm produce I brought home from work last week.  (This was kind of a blessing in disguise - we eat like crap normally, but this week it's been nothing but veggies!)  I sewed a slip cover for this chair that I'd trashpicked, and cushions for the couch.  I already had the pillowforms, but you can make them cheaply by buying really bed pillows at walmart and using the stuffing.  I then took a lamp that someone had given me and bought some of the cheapo craft paint which matched the curtains.  I stripped off the old finish of the lamp and added a stencil in red.  I'm really proud of how everything turned out, and if I can figure out how to take some pictures, maybe I will post them.  It's not perfectly decluttered or decorated.  I wouldn't even call our look minimalist, at all.  We just have too small a space to be minimalist, and I think after some years of trying to be minimalist, I realize that I prefer cozy and decorated and organized enough, and enough of everything to entertain and share, but not too much.  Just enough.  DD's toys ended up in an underbed bin with the lid taken off so we could push it under the chest we use as a coffee table.  I have a big pile of stuff under my sewing table which I hide with a bit of fabric and hope to replace it all with a dresser or low bookcase.  But it's homey, and everything matches enough of the things match and DD knows where her stuff is, and DP says he smiles every time he looks at the little corner with the red chair.


The bedroom theme is oatmeal and white, because I found enough matching lace curtains at goodwill, and enough matching canvas curtains at the VOA.  I'm going to make a wallhanging out of some remnant bin burlap and some bits of fabric I have to go over the bed and give the room some color.  The bedskirt is a big blue bedspread that I picked up at a church thrift shop for a dollar.  I bought two quilts for the bed from TJ Maxx which ran us a hundy total.  It took me a year to acquire all these things, and if I were a bit less crunched in my budget, I would probably have just shelled out the money to have them brand new.  But, as they say, stuff either costs money or time!  :)  The bedroom is very restful.  Things don't quite match, because we have DD's bed in there too, and the floor plan of our house is occasionally difficult to navigate, but it's what we have to work with.  We have a big stack of things on the chest in our bedroom and I usually cover it with a sheet to give it some visual uniformity, but someday we will acquire another dresser or two.  


Oh, and DD takes little things and makes "decorations" of them, which I find unbearably adorable.


So, goal accomplished!


By the way, I've learned to become more decisive about crafting.  For the slipcover, I cut into a tablecloth I thought I might also like to use on the table.  I was afraid I'd regret it, but now that the cover is done and on the cushion, I don't think I'll give it a second thought.  And, I can always find another tablecloth!  :)  I think I've been learning how to prioritize tasks (finishing slipcover > having a fifth tablecloth), and also to see that a thing done imperfectly is in most cases far superior to a thing left undone.  I've been practicing making decisions about all sorts of household things, living with the consequences, and finding that I rarely if ever regret anything, and the things I do regret are fixable!


I still have rough days, and most days are not "ideal" in terms of housekeeping or mothering, but, I've been learning to think of my top priorities, and I usually count any day with at least two accomplished a success.  (Free play, fresh air, decent meals, good sleep, and tidiness are my goals.)  Today we haven't really tidied or had much fresh air, but we slept well, ate well, and she played and I crafted.  So the floor is covered in toys and craft supplies that will need to be cleaned, and a sink of dishes that need to be washed.  But the bed is made, and we played all day.  Right now, DD is painting the bath tub with "her" shampoo (she gets a bottle of VO5 a week in exchange for leaving the Herbal Essences alone) while I am on the internet.  :)


It's funny, I actually came to this thread to complain that I get jealous when I see people able to adequately organize larger amounts of stuff because they have greater money and space resources.  To say that I like how much stuff we have, which is so little compared to many I know, but that we still feel a little cramped.  But instead, after writing all this down, I feel incredibly blessed, like I have so much abundance in my life that I've been able to make a little haven of my little home.  And I haven't even talked about the porch and the spray paint and the free chairs or the garden!

post #14 of 19

Awesome post! 


Sounds like you've made some really important realizations. I really identify with a lot of your thought patterns, especially the decision-making process. I'm prone to getting bogged down in indecision, so that nothing gets done.



I was afraid I'd regret it, but now that the cover is done and on the cushion, I don't think I'll give it a second thought.



That's pretty wise.  Take the 'cover' and 'cushion' out and one could apply it to many other aspects of life. 

post #15 of 19
A lot of what you said rings true for me as well. I get so stuck with decision making. Half of my problem is that I still can't decide where to store all of my stuff. So it gets shifted place to place. Sigh.
post #16 of 19

I am jumping for joy for you. {{Okay, doing a happy dance in my chair...but...STILL.}} Awesome!

post #17 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the cheers, you all!!  I knew that the folks here would understand how exciting this was for me.  :) 


I didn't realize until writing this out how much that indecision and fear of regret has played a part in my past choices.  Journeymom, you are right, I think I can apply that idea of not regretting things as much I think I will to a lot of areas of my life. 


After writing this post, I was also inspired to make some decisions to let some transitional things go to new homes, and I've been giving stuff away that I had been saving "just in case" - and it feels so good to see the things go off to new homes.


I've also been sticking to my resolution to only buy crafting materials for a specific project.  I even returned some fabric from my pillow project that I didn't end up needing - even though I thought it was really cool.  I realized that I can always buy it or something like it again if I think of a use for it.


All and all I think I have grown a lot more intentional about what stuff I bring into the home.

post #18 of 19
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by mkksmom View Post

A lot of what you said rings true for me as well. I get so stuck with decision making. Half of my problem is that I still can't decide where to store all of my stuff. So it gets shifted place to place. Sigh.


Oh my gosh, yes, this is the problem for me too.  I think alot of our storage doesn't make the most sense right now, so a lot of it keeps moving around.  I have my craft supplies split up between the living room and the kitchen and I constantly can't find stuff or don't know where to put it. 

post #19 of 19

Here's a quote from my mom that has helped guide me..."You don't clean something because it's dirty, you clean to keep it from becoming dirty."


Doesn't it feel nice to declutter?  I'm on a serious simplification streak and have given away so much stuff that was cluttering up my life.  I feel free.

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